Unlike his predecessors, theodore syncellus was writing at a time when the validity of his triumphalist narrative was increasingly called into question by historical reality. The 626 a.d. siege of Constantinople ended in total defeat for the Avars and Persians followed by an even more spectacular victory of the Emperor Heraclius in Mesopotamia, the very heart of the Sasanian kingdom. For the moment, the triumphalist rhetoric of the true Israel appeared to be justified, as the Christian empire found itself within striking distance of dominating the inland Near East. Within a decade, however, the tables were turned when Muslim armies took control of Palestine, Syria, Egypt, and later North Africa, effectively ending Byzantine dreams of a universalistic Christian empire. Soon afterward, the greatly reduced Byzantium found itself in the grip of the Iconoclast controversy, which challenged the very basics of orthodoxy. The image of Byzantium as the universalistic and triumphant true Israel was becoming increasingly out of touch with reality.
These upheavals of the seventh, eighth, and ninth centuries triggered a new interest in the apocalyptic genre among the Byzantines, as well as other ethnic, cultural, and religious groups constituting the Byzantine Commonwealth. In the situation in which the seemingly eternal political and religious edifice of the Byzantine Empire was starting to crumble, the dynamic eschatology of apocalyptic predictions was once again more appealing than a static vision of the empire as the eternally realized heaven on earth.